Shelley E. Kohan

Associate Professor, Fashion Institute of Technology
Shelley E. Kohan has been serving the retail industry for over 30 years working in senior leadership positions across various functions including general management, marketing, operations, merchandising, buying, and human resources. Positions include President Shelmark Consulting, Vice President Retail Consulting RetailNext, Executive Vice President Space NK, Vice President Store Operations Saks Fifth Avenue, Operating Vice President Bloomingdale’s, Director of Logistics Macy’s West, and Regional Director Operations Macy’s West. Kohan is a recognized retail expert appearing in the NBC Nightly News, Fox News, CGTN Global Business News, Wall St. Journal, New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily, Reuters, Fortune, Chain Store Age, The Robin Report, and other publications. She is a webinar and conference speaker appearing at WWD Digital, WWD 20/20, NRF Big Show,, Future of Stores and RIS Retail Executive Summit. Kohan has been honored as a Top Retail Influencer (2016, 2017, 2018) by Vend University. Kohan teaches as a tenured assistant professor both face-to-face and online classes on topics of retail management, case study method, marketing strategies, leadership development, and fashion business practices. Shelley earned a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from Penn State University, a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Behavior from the University of San Francisco and an associate’s degree in Merchandising and Buying from the Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2021

    Will Giant Food’s shelf labels with diversity call-outs drive sales?

    The retail industry should foster opportunities that support minority-owned businesses or any small businesses for that matter. From a consumer perspective, as Gen Z and Millennials' buying power grows, their purchasing decisions are value-based and they are seeking to do business with companies that demonstrate CSR and provide equity to all brands. Highlighting brands that are minority-owned is a great way to demonstrate that Giant is paying attention to DEI (diversity-equity-inclusion) initiatives. From an employer perspective, it is a great way to demonstrate to the workers actions around DEI. Gen Z and Millennials want to work with companies that have CSR initiatives so it can make Giant an employer of choice. For big companies like Ahold Delhaize, paying it forward to support smaller businesses and provide equitable opportunities to all vendors is a positive for the industry.
  • Posted on: 12/28/2020

    Should retail CEOs be on social media?

    If the target market and the employees expect to see their leadership on social media, then the CEO should build that voice. Be warned, however, it must be authentic as today's consumers can read through any form of conversation that is not true to the brand. Doug McMillon has been a great example of staying on brand, I enjoy reading his posts which are a combination of employee and customer-centered. Levi is another great example of having an authentic brand voice on social media.
  • Posted on: 12/21/2020

    How is Nike excelling at driving loyalty with digital?

    Nike’s digital business allows the brand to continue to connect with its members and increase sales despite store closings and restricted occupancy. Nike has added over 70 million members to its loyalty program this year. Over 60 million customers across 25 countries participated in Member’s Day, a new event providing unique retail moments, first access to products, exclusive products and added rewards. Other brands can take a page from Nike's DTC strategy. Three years ago, Nike reduced the number of wholesale distributors to focus on the direct-to-consumer market. The brand went from over 30,000 distributors down to focus on 40 of them. This pivot allowed Nike to maintain control of the brand and keep close ties with its customers, a strategy called “Consumer Direct Offense.”
  • Posted on: 12/17/2020

    Is there a secret sauce to Kroger’s online success?

    Kroger's shift to digital is a prime example of the benefits of having a flexible and nimble strategy with the ability to make quick decisions. Kroger has spent time, money and other resources to build a back of house infrastructure and supply chain that is robust enough to deliver a digital business. As one of the top U.S. retailers (currently ranked #3), it has a tremendous business that it can change on a dime, unlike the battleship of Macy's, so it is not a surprise that Kroger moved up on the e-commerce top ten list. As a side note, as another indicator of great leadership, Kroger was one of the first retailers early in the pandemic to share best practices for handling the new environment in its Blueprint for Success.
  • Posted on: 12/17/2020

    Is the pandemic pushing livestream shopping into the mainstream?

    Livestreaming will take off in the U.S. market as it directly hits upon a few key consumer trends of convenience, personalization and loyalty. Directly connecting with customers in this type of event will drive loyalty. Customers will feel special and like part of the "in-crowd." Brands will also be able to capitalize on other types of digital commerce such as one-to-one FaceTime, TikTok and other social commerce avenues. Livestreaming is the tip of the iceberg and will open up other opportunities for brands to build loyalty, especially DTC brands. There will be higher user adoption on the fashion and beauty side of the industry.
  • Posted on: 12/15/2020

    What if Barnes & Noble had produced ‘The Queen’s Gambit’?

    There has always been a strong synergy between arts and fashion but we do not always experience preemptive behavior of the combined. Similar to fashion forecasting which takes into account Zeitgeist, the spirit of a generation or period of time, retailers need to be more proactive with themes in our environment. Far too often, retailers can be slow to act and end up left behind (as in the case of Barnes & Noble). A new business model should include "retail forecasting" - although none of us predicted the impact of the pandemic, some retailers have shifted quickly while others lag behind. Collaborations and partnerships are the way to go in terms of crossing between art and fashion.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2020

    Will Whole Foods draw more Prime shoppers with one-hour curbside pickup?

    Whole Foods' curbside pickup is a grand slam for the company. Prime membership continues to grow with initiatives centered around convenience. This year more than half of the U.S. population will be Prime members (over 142 million). Shoppers that love Whole Foods do not like the typically crowded in-store environments and jammed parking lots - curbside addresses both issues. Additionally, the new initiative will bring a younger customer to shop Whole Foods who are used to such conveniences. The big concerns are logistics on execution as many sites have small parking areas to manage this process and the ability to keep in stock of high demand goods.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2020

    Macy’s is turning stores dark for the holidays

    Macy's decision to create dark stores is a short-term fix for a long-term problem. Based on the need to reduce cash burn and try to recoup sales from a down-trending season, using the stores as fulfillment centers make sense for the next four months. The problem faced is making sure the right stock is in the few stores that are doing fulfillment. Macy's has been notorious for keeping goods sitting on trucks in transit and not in the right locations down to the SKU level. If Macy's can make sure there is better visibility into the supply chain and it can improve the speed to market for Q4, it could be a savior. Other retailers may follow suit if the financials support the decision. Low inventory, a need to conserve cash and significant changes in consumer demand are making this holiday especially tough for apparel and department store retailers.
  • Posted on: 09/25/2020

    Will curbside pickup be Costco’s Achilles heel?

    Target thought they would lose incremental business when they implemented curbside pickup last year (pre-pandemic), however in an earnings call, Brian Cornell stated that the frequency of visits increased significantly. While shopping in-store may lend itself to incremental purchases, the long-term value-add of providing a great service will increase the frequency of visits and build deeper loyalty with their customers. Costco will be in BIG trouble if they are not looking to add this benefit soon. The business model of the warehouse club lends itself well to curbside pick up since the model is highly operational in nature. However before they implement this process, much work needs to be done in the digital space for them to succeed (namely on its website and its app).
  • Posted on: 09/14/2020

    Lululemon is ready to tackle holiday crowd control

    If the experience is anything like what I had this past week, I would say the host at the entrance of the store is a great way to expedite the shopping visits. When I arrived, the host at the door asked if I was looking for anything particular. I told her actually I was and she told me exactly where to find it which cut down my shopping trip. Retail shoppers really want to get in and out of the stores quickly so whatever practices retailers can implement to expedite the shopping trips are winners. As a side note, Lululemon was sold out of the short I wanted but the host told me they would alter a crop pant to the length of the short for free, charge me the price of the short (which was cheaper) and send it to my house. OK, I'm hooked now - I'm a loyal customer and will go back.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2020

    Target touts diversity gains, pledges to hire more Black employees

    A continued focus on DEI for Target will allow it to gain market share with today’s consumer and be an employer of choice. A diverse team delivers richer output and keeps both customers and employees more deeply engaged.
  • Posted on: 09/01/2020

    Will the late Prime Day sabotage or catapult holiday spending?

    Let's not forget the other major event impacting holiday selling ... the US Presidential election. A change in the White House may make consumers tighten up the purse strings while no change in the white house may erupt in more social divide. Prime Day will be monstrous this year with pent up demand, so all retailers should be on notice. Too early and it may miss the holiday selling opportunity, too late and it may be a loss based on the results of the election. I would say early November would be a better bet to balance out demand and supply chain capacity. Also, most consumers over-spend on holiday versus non-holiday. October is too early. All Retailers should ABSOLUTELY join the bandwagon, as Nikki says.
  • Posted on: 06/11/2020

    Can experiential retail go live and online?

    The two main reasons that live stream shopping will take off is the shift of consumer comfort with shopping online and the overwhelming comfort that cross-generational shoppers have with using virtual applications like Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime and Other factors are convenience and trust in their favorite brands, many customers could easily get used to having their own stylist! Factors that can create high engagement online would be customer input on product development, gamification and customization.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2020

    Is curbside pickup just getting started?

    Curbside is here to stay as shoppers love the convenience and value this commerce option provides. For retailers, contrary to popular belief, providing pickup and curbside can actually increase sales and shopper frequency. On the Target investor call last month, it was stated that pickup and drive-up have increased traffic by 2.7 percent. The average spend is up 25 percent for shoppers engaging in drive-ups and in-store visits. The sales are complementary and by creating these cross-channel synergies, it can develop a deeper loyalty with the customers.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2020

    Nordstrom focuses on seamless shopping as stores reopen

    The consumer expectation has greatly shifted in a mere six weeks. The one-to-one personalized service is no longer a high expectation, even at Nordstrom. However, the Nordstrom family has always been very in-tune with the shopper's needs and is able to deliver a relevant experience based on customer expectations. At this time, Nordstrom will be able to offer a safe, comfortable shopping experience and will shift investments into more digital offerings like online, pickup, curbside and ship it which is how many consumers are wanting to shop. Maintaining extraordinary service is being redefined by the day and Nordstrom will continue to be the leader in this area.

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